Do you find yourself staying up late at night trying to beat a game?
You put countless hours into beating it: collecting items, maxing out stats, and finding all the secrets it has to offer.
Soon after, you beat the game.
However, maybe the ending isn’t satisfying, or you crave more gameplay and content. What do you do? The game is over, there’s nothing left.
Coming to your aid is DLC or downloadable content – which thankfully has become a big part of the gaming business.
DLC allows game developers to continue to work on their games, adding new content and new additions that can modify gameplay greatly.
Games can be extended through new story missions, extra weapons, new secret areas, and more. There have been some truly great DLCs…and some DLCs that proved to be more of a train wreck than a benefit to the game’s overall presentation.
DLC also allows the game developer to go back and perhaps fix issues that plague the game that they weren’t able to fix or get to before the deadline of the game’s release. DLC can truly be the redeeming quality for developers and gamers alike.
I’m going to tell you about the different types of DLC, the best and the worst DLC released.
There MAY be spoilers ahead, so beware, reader!
Types of Downloadable Content
Back in 2008, I was playing Fallout 3 for the Xbox 360. I won’t drop any spoilers for those who haven’t finished it, but let’s just say that the ending left a lot to be desired.
The player plays these games for hours on end, investing their time, emotions, and intellect into a story of a game only to have it not deliver. It can be demoralizing.
Luckily for myself and others, Bethesda eventually developed extensive DLC to modify Fallout 3. It was a great experience, I was thrust back into the rich world of post-apocalyptic Washington D.C.
This is but one type of DLC, in my opinion, the best form that is offered to us gamers.
Like my example of DLC above, story-based adds new things to the game’s story.
It is either in the form of new quests or new characters, hopefully making your gaming experience more cohesive.
I personally love this form of DLC. With Fallout 3, it came in the form of Broken Steel, which fundamentally changed the ending, (or rather expanded upon it), and threw the player into a new set of adventures that added extreme longevity to the game, and added a new free-roam aspect to the game that was sorely lacking before.
Bethesda continued this tradition with their other Fallout games, as well as heavily modifying The Elder Scrolls Skyrim. Skyrim, along with having extensive modding capabilities, has received countless DLC packages since its release in 2011.
This allows for new, creative ideas to enter the fold and enchant gamers past the last chapter of the game’s story.
Extra Content DLC
There’s nothing like downloading crazy new weapons or characters into one of your favorite games. One of my personal favorite games, Crusader Kings II, constantly gets updates and cool DLC all of the time.
The game started out in 2012 as a bare-bones strategy game set in the Middle Ages. Over the years, you got chances to play as new nations, have new strategic options, and new historical scenarios as well as new achievements.
This type of DLC keeps the game running for years to come – without necessarily upping the difficulty level. The developers of Crusader Kings II could have easily just released the base game in 2012, but they stuck with it, and make it seem new with every update.
This is a pretty broad category, including new characters, weapons, quests, and other features.
Our Favorite Downloadable Content
Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and The Damned
This is one of the best DLC packages of the late 2000s. I personally loved Grand Theft Auto IV and the dark, sometimes humorous tale of Niko Bellic and his bloody quest of revenge through Liberty City.
It was a pretty lengthy game, but I still found myself sad that it was over when I finally got there. Luckily for me, Rockstar released two episodic DLCs after its release.
The Lost and the Damned, released in 2009, giving the player control of rough and gruff biker named Johnny who rode with the tough biker gang, the Lost. This was a great way to breathe new life into Grand Theft Auto IV, and it added new weapons, new vehicles, and a great story.
The Ballad of Gay Tony was released later in 2009, and it followed nightclub bouncer Luis and his dealings with his boss, the titular Gay Tony.
This was a great piece of DLC, not only because it added insane new weapons and features, but it also evoked imagery from earlier titles, specifically Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.
These two ‘episodes’ released by Rockstar are some of the best examples of how to do DLC right. You can tell that a lot of love, work, and passion went into creating funny, witty writing and that iconic GTA gameplay we all know and love.
Pros and Cons
✔ Robust Content: The DLC offers a significant single-player campaign, 54 new music tracks, 20 new vehicles, new weapons, side missions, TV shows, and multiplayer modes, providing value for its price.
✔ Improved Gameplay: Motorcycles have been tweaked for better handling, making them more enjoyable to ride. New weapons, including the assault shotgun and grenade launcher, enhance combat experiences.
✘ Unrelatable Protagonist: Johnny Klebitz, while central to the story, lacks the charm of previous GTA leads, making it challenging for players to empathize.
✘ Narrative Gaps: The storyline, marred by underdeveloped subplots and lukewarm character arcs, often feels lacking in depth.
Fallout 3 DLC
After Fallout 3’s ending, one where there was no choice as to what you did and didn’t allow you to play afterward, was disappointing, to say the least. With DLC Broken Steel, Bethesda remedied this issue by changing the story minorly with big results.
As the player character, you wake up in a Brotherhood of Steel base, and you continue the story. Not only that, but the maximum level cap in the game rose by 10, adding new incentives to the gameplay.
I think Broken Steel may be one of the most significant in the manner in which it addresses the story, but the other DLCs that were eventually released for Fallout 3 were great in their own right.
Point Lookout, released in summer 2009, was perhaps my favorite. It has the main character taking a ship from The Capitol Wasteland to southern Maryland, near the confluence of the Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River.
The player is thrust into an eerie, atmospheric environment and story that is unlike anything else I’ve ever played. It’s always creepy, with insane new enemies lurking around every corner.
I remember finding an ‘abandoned’ cabin in the woods late at night. Of course, I wanted to loot the hell out of it, so I went inside. I wasn’t careful, though, and I heard ‘FOUND YA!’ behind me.
What I saw was a grotesque, inbred swamp dweller. Not only did it add horror to the game, but it created new, vivid experiences that I’ll never forget.
Pros and Cons
✔ Rich Content: Point Lookout offers a brand new area with over half a dozen unique missions, providing a substantial addition to the Fallout 3 experience.
✔ Emphasis on Exploration: The DLC is designed with a focus on exploration, from rocky shores to irradiated forests, filled with history and nods to real-life battles.
✘ Limited New Gear: The DLC offers only a few new items for players looking to expand their arsenal.
✘ Visual Concerns: The lush landscape, while visually appealing, suffers from draw-in issues as players navigate through it.
Dragon Age: Origins: Awakening
This expansion did much of what Fallout 3’s Broken Steel did. After the end of Dragon Age: Origins, the player character isn’t able to play after the main quest is done. In this case, it makes sense. Your story is complete and, (hopefully), you get the ending you want.
Awakening throws you back into the rich world of Thedas, where the Darkspawn threatening the world has been defeated.
However, there remains a lurking threat that needs dealing with. Who better to deal with it than you? You can either return as your accomplished character or create a new one and jump right back into the RPG goodness.
Like all good RPG DLC, the level cap was increased, and important new choices were included, as well as terrifying new enemies.
Pros and Cons
✔ Expansive Content: Awakening offers a vast new area filled with engaging missions, providing a substantial addition to the Dragon Age experience.
✔ Character Depth: The DLC introduces new companions with well-developed backgrounds and commentaries, enriching the player’s journey.
✘ Weak Connection to Original: Despite its narrative depth, Awakening doesn’t strongly tie back to choices made in the original game, making the experience feel somewhat disjointed.
✘ Limited Returning Companions: Few companions from the original game return, which might be disappointing for players attached to their original party.
Oblivion – Shivering Isles
This one is a trip. You know Bethesda is great at world-building, and this is no exception. The player character is transported to the wild world of the Shivering Isles, governed by the mad Daedric Prince Sheogorath. The Isles are split into two sections: dementia and mania.
All the characters are unique and weird, culminating in your meeting with Sheogorath himself, an unhinged god with a Scottish accent.
The environment is so unique and strangely beautiful, consisting of beautiful vibrant colors, as well as melancholy and dark imagery for an experience you’ll never forget.
Pros and Cons
✔ Engaging Main Story: The plot offers varied tasks, a solid backstory, and choices with real consequences, enhancing player immersion.
✔ Unique Characters: The character Sheogorath stands out, offering genuine humor and memorable interactions.
✘ Visual Concerns: NPC faces appear unnatural, detracting from the overall visual appeal.
✘ Lack of New Music: The absence of a new orchestral track is noticeable, with players relying on existing scores.
✘ Stability Issues: Occasional crashes can disrupt the gameplay experience.
Oblivion – Horse Armor
Yep, you knew it would show up eventually. The infamous Oblivion horse armor was one of the first DLC for The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Oblivion was such an iconic game, and so gamers expected nothing less when it came to the upcoming possibilities of DLC.
But compared to DLCs like Shivering Isles, this one is just downright insulting to players. It allows you to equip your horse with armor. Yep, that’s it: that’s the DLC. You go to a stable and get a free set of either Elven or steel horse armor. It’s downright insulting.
Designer Joel Burgess still defends their decisions:
“…more interesting DLCs were built on the back of the horse armor…there’s something to be said for giving the internet something to make fun of. You know you’ve made it, I guess.”
Pros and Cons
✔ Pioneering Concept: One of the earliest forms of microtransactions, it set a precedent for future DLCs in gaming.
✔ Sales Success: Despite the controversy, the Horse Armor DLC was among Bethesda’s best-performing add-ons, proving the viability of such content.
✘ Value Debate: The DLC sparked discussions about what content should be included in a game versus what should be sold separately.
✘ Industry Implications: While successful, it kick-started a trend of microtransactions, which some argue has led to predatory monetization tactics in gaming.
This hurts me because I’m a huge Sims fan. However, their model of releasing DLC is insane. Sometimes you’ll see The Sims on sale, and you think, “Hey, that sounds great, there’s a lot of content.” STOP RIGHT THERE.
That’s just the base game. There are hundreds of DLC packs equaling hundreds of dollars.
It’s just not feasible for a gamer on a budget. While the DLC may be ‘good’, the method and volume in which they’re released are just not realistic.
You ideally want all of the best DLC, but the list is huge.
The tragedy is that there are some truly great DLCs, but you can easily become overwhelmed by how many choices you have, and the sheer amount of money it would cost to outfit your copy of the Sims with the best content.
As of July 2018, if you wanted to have the COMPLETE Sims 4 experience, you would need to drop an insane $500+ dollars to acquire all DLC. On sale, it’s still $300+ dollars.
A small consolation. That should be considered a crime.
Pros and Cons
✔ Holiday Celebrations: From Winterfest (Christmas) to Harvestfest (Thanksgiving), players can celebrate various holidays, adding depth to the game’s social interactions.
✔ Emotional Depth: Weather conditions, like thunderstorms or the first snow, can influence Sims’ emotions, making gameplay more unpredictable and engaging.
✘ Initial Absence: Some players felt weather should have been a base game feature, not an additional purchase.
✘ Potential Overwhelm: With the addition of holidays and changing seasons, players might find it challenging to keep up with all the new activities.
Dragon Age: Origins
Okay, so this is more an issue with the method of accessing the DLC. The DLC itself is pretty decent, but the way that it’s presented is…a little deceptive and underhanded.
You’ll run into a man named Levy Dryden at your camp amongst your NPC friends. He waxes and wanes about a quest he needs you to do. Nice rewards, new quest, glory; what’s not to like? Except once you want to accept, it pops u saying you need to purchase the DLC quest.
What gives, EA? I remember rejecting the quest out of sheer irritation.
Pros and Cons
✔ Deep and Expansive: Dragon Age: Origins offers a vast world with intricate details, providing players with dozens of hours of immersive gameplay.
✔ Character Flexibility: Players can develop characters in radically different ways, ensuring a unique experience with each playthrough.
✘ Repetitive Plot Elements: Despite the game’s depth, certain plot elements can feel repetitive, with similar motivating factors across different cities.
✘ Character Animations: Some animations, especially outside of battle, can appear stiff, detracting from the overall immersion.
Destiny: The Taken King
I remember sinking a lot of hours into Destiny’s raids and getting loot. It was a lot of work, but I leveled up pretty high.
Then the game kind of petered out. I liked it, but there needed to be more.
Then the Taken King came out, and something bad happened. New content, new story missions, and everything; things that Destiny needed.
However, the Taken King made some controversial changes to the base game that left others, myself included, a little frustrated. Content that was available and a standard part of the game was locked.
That meant that players that had not bought The Taken King would be locked out of day one content.
This was a cheap move by Bungie, which has millions of fans who were part of a dedicated fan base.
It was a bitter pill: while the DLC was good, Bungie still essentially forced players to buy it whether they wanted to or not.
Pros and Cons
✔ Engaging Storyline: The DLC offers a succinct six-hour story filled with clever level designs, cinematic cutscenes, and humorous dialogue.
✔ Enhanced Combat: New enemy types, the Taken, bring distinct attack styles, adding depth to the combat experience.
✘ Lack of Matchmaking Tools: The endgame raid, King’s Fall, lacks matchmaking tools, making it challenging for solo players to participate.
✘ Disconnect with Previous Content: Some players felt that certain elements, like the upgrade system for weapons and armor, were discarded in favor of the new loot system.
- Unlockable Characters… at a Price: “All The Bravest” had players pay for the chance to unlock iconic “Final Fantasy” characters. However, the character you received was random, leading to potentially high costs for desired characters.
- NPCs as DLC Advertisements: In “Dragon Age: Origins,” players could encounter NPCs that essentially acted as advertisements for DLC content, breaking immersion.
- Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty: This expansion was built with the game’s 2.0 update in mind, making it feel like a playground for the revamped Cyberpunk’s best features. It’s noted for its intense combat, rich narrative, and the challenging decisions it presents to players.
- Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course: Despite being one of the shorter expansions, it’s renowned for its stunning animations and increased difficulty level. It demands mastery of both old and new Cuphead tricks, rewarding players with exhilarating boss battles.
- Battlefield Bad Company 2: Vietnam: This DLC is lauded for its exceptional maps, soundtrack, and refinements to the base game’s multiplayer modes. It’s considered one of the most intense multiplayer FPS experiences of its era.
- Dishonored: The Brigmore Witches: Recognized as the series’ finest expansion, it combines a compelling narrative with challenging gameplay elements, making it a standout in the Dishonored franchise.
As you can see, DLC can be some of the best, and worst, aspects of a game. It can breathe new life into a rich world, allowing the player to enter new environments and engaging new characters.
Other DLC can add simple aesthetic items that really serve no purpose. Overall, DLC is a great way to keep a game selling and fans satisfied with the developers’ creative vision.